Terrorist attacks on shipping near the Philippines have increased. Credit: IHS Markit
Insurers and security experts say the discovery of the bodies of two Vietnamese seafarers beheaded by an Islamic terror group highlights the issues faced by the maritime sector.
The bodies were found by soldiers on the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines, and came on the day the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issued its piracy report for the first six months of the year.
The document highlighted a continuing decline in the number of reported incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships, with the figures being some of the lowest in the past five years.
However, the discovery of the bodies paints a very different picture and one which adds to the issues for shipowners when it comes to piracy kidnap and ransom, especially those involving terrorist groups.
The two victims were part of a six-man crew of the cargo vessel MV Royal 16, who were taken by members of the Islamic State-aligned militant group, Abu Sayyaf, in November 2016.
The group had been demanding a ransom for the past eight months and, while one hostage was rescued in June, the execution of the two men has heightened fears for the remaining hostages.
One London marine underwriter told Safety at Sea, “The tragic death of these two seafarers highlights the fact that the threat to the maritime sector remains real. Given the belief that the crew were taken by a terrorist group this was not a simple case of piracy.”
The issue for many insurers is that there are clear and stringent sanctions on the funding of Islamic terrorism and therefore strict bans on the payment of any ransom to groups or piracy gangs with links to militant Islamic groups.
“The involvement of Islamic terrorist links does have an impact on the way insurers can respond to these incidents,” added the underwriter. “However, we will do everything we can to work with our clients to ensure the safe return of crew, vessel, and cargo, with the crew the priority.”